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Photo: TARUMI Kengo

Kippan are sweets made from Okinawan citrus fruit specialties like kābuchī and kunibu. People who try kippan are always surprised that Okinawa makes such a refined, elegant treat. Kippan is written as either 橘餅 (literally “Tachibana orange mochi”) or 桔餅 (literally “plant mochi”), but in accordance with certain Okinawan phonetics, it’s sometimes pronounced “chippan.”

The treat originates in China and was carried to Ryukyu via official state envoys from the Fuzhou region. In China, kippan were originally a pricey delicacy, piled up in well-to-do households on New Year’s as a prideful symbol of wealth. In Ryukyu, too, only the nobility had access to kippan, but in the modern age, anyone can buy some. Apparently in recent years, mainlanders have also ordered Okinawan kippan for tea ceremonies.

Kippan are usually flat-rounds about four centimeters in diameter, rolled in a coating of white sugar. Normally you slice them into about six pieces for eating. Though flour isn’t used in their making, the white pith of the citrus fruits acts as a binding agent and makes for a texture akin to red bean paste. 

Only one shop currently makes kippan. Compared to sweets like chinsukō, kippan isn’t really well known, but my hope is that many people will try kippan and carry on its legacy. Anyone willing to give it a shot should head to Jahana Kippan, located across from the Matsuo Fire Station in Naha (+81 098-867-3687).